Serena Williams recovered from an early scare to claim her fourth title at the Foro Italico and third in four years.
In an all American final, Madison Keys took the early advantage as she raced into a 3-1 lead. But Williams showed her superior class and came back to win the first set tiebreaker 7-5.
Keys showed the fighting spirit that has helped her reach arguably her biggest final to date but Williams always looked in control in the second set winning 6-3 to clinch the match in one hour and 24 minutes, her first WTA title since last August.
The world No.1 had previously won the title in 2002, 2013 and 2014 but was keen to acknowledge Keys in a warm embrace at the finish.
“It feels great,” said Serena. “I feel like it was important for me to just go out there like usual. I think she’s such a powerful player. Obviously going in, I knew that, but I was just trying. I think I was pretty much able to just get back what I could and that’s all I was trying to do was just to go out there and be consistent, and make my shots.
“I think Madison is a great player. I really do. I always have. I feel like she has potential to be the best in the world and that is No. 1. Yeah, absolutely.”
“It’s always great to hear that from her,” said Keys after Williams had made her prediction at the net. “She’s obviously an amazing champion, and she’s won so many matches and tournaments. Hearing that is definitely something that makes me just work.
“I beat a lot of top players this week, and I played well. So I definitely felt like I belonged here and I deserved to get here. I guess, you know, next time it’s just crossing the finish line.”